Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Interview: Chris Myers, senior copywriter on The Samaritans' Christmas campaign

Last week, I tweeted about a piece of direct mail from The Samaritans, an effective piece of creative which asked people for donations over the Christmas period. The campaign, produced by London agency TBCH, was created by senior copywriter Chris Myers and art director Tim. I liked the campaign and fired across over some questions to Chris regarding its conception and execution.

Thanks to Chris for providing the answers below. If you'd like to donate to The Samaritans, you can find them at Samaritans.org/becky/.

 What was the single minded proposition of the campaign?

Our planner, Dom, came up with the proposition:

"Even the strongest fall down once in a while. Will you be there to help them pick themselves up?"

Interestingly, it didn't mention Christmas - a little strange for a festive appeal. But this worked in the pack's favour - rather than just focusing on a single period of time, we were able to communicate the ongoing need for support. We need to be there for people every day, including Christmas Day.

Christmas is the busiest time of year for Samaritans. Whether it's because of money worries, loneliness or just the everyday stresses and strains of the festive period, nearly 200,000 calls are made to Samaritans at this time. One such person was the subject of our case study, Becky.

We needed to tell Becky's story in a sympathetic way that didn't portray her as a victim, but as a strong person who occasionally needs a helping hand. And we needed to portray Samaritans as an organisation that helps people find their way, their way - someone to talk to, someone to listen.

 Who's the audience you're targeting in the adverts?

The pack was targeted at a cold audience. Traditionally these are the unflatteringly-titled "Dorothy Donors" - predominantly female, affluent, older people. However, our cold audience also included anyone who has been directly or indirectly affected by any of the issues associated with Samaritans and wants to make a difference. Given that one in three of us will have been affected in some way with depression or suicide, that's a lot of people.

Why was this route chosen?

The pack was chosen because it married the timeliness of the appeal with the ongoing need for funds to keep Samaritans going 24/7/365. It brought the proposition to life through the story of Becky, while using it to dramatise the fact that so many people will call Samaritans over the festive period.

Any ideas that didn't make it into the final campaign?

We started out exploring traditional Christmas territories - wish lists, gifts, that sort of thing - but we wanted to have stand-out from the 'traditional' Christmas appeals. So they were swiftly jettisoned.

How receptive were the Samaritans marketing team of the creative? What was their input?

From proposition development to printing, this was a real group effort. Our account director, Jules, had a hand in crafting the outer line (much to the annoyance, but ultimately reluctant approval of the Copywriters' Union). The client provided an excellent, moving case study and helped make sure that the whole piece was on-brand.